Bill Clinton has been hitting the talk show circuit promoting his book about ways people, whether rich or not rich, can help change the lives of people around the world. I haven't bought the book, but I did go to a web site he recommended: Kiva.
I love the idea of this organization. I loved the idea when I heard about Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for last year. For 30 years he was one of the world's great micro-credit lenders. He made over 7 million loans, 97 percent to village women and had a 98.5 percent payback rate. But, not being a bazillionaire, I never dreamed that I could do anything like that.
Kiva has erased the need for "wealth" in order to help the poor. Clinton gave an interview to Greta Van Sustern of Fox News (yeah...it's Fox, but it's still an informative interview). Here's an excerpt from that interview which explains what Kiva does:
VAN SUSTEREN: How much money are you talking about?
CLINTON: As little as $25. You are talking about a lot of this money is loaned to people in countries with a per capita income of less than a dollar a day. You can see basket-makers and weavers in Africa. You can see a guy in Kabul, Afghanistan, who repaired radios.
VAN SUSTEREN: So if I go on Kiva.org and give $25, I can actually track to see how it changes someone's life?
CLINTON: Yes. If you go on Kiva, you can give as little as $25, almost nobody gives more than $300 or $400. And you may — let's suppose you pick a basket cooperative in Rwanda, and they want to get together after the horrible problems of a decade ago and bring people together across ethnic lines and make baskets and market them.
Let's suppose they need to borrow $400, well, you can either — you can give them $400, but you can give $25 and then eventually, let's say, 10 or 15 together will provide the $400. Then you loan them the money through a local group in Rwanda, and they report back in and pay the money back.
And every couple of weeks you can go back to Kiva and get a report as if you were their banker. They will report in, how are we doing with your money? How is our business doing? Are they repaying the loan?
Then when the loans are paid, you can take your money back or turn around and pick someone else to loan it to.
Seems so simple, doesn't it? It's such a cool idea because you don't have to be a rich person to help someone else. You can choose the entrepreneur you want to help. You can choose the area of business. You can choose the country. And you can make a difference with only $25, a little less than price of Clinton's book!
When I checked out Kiva last night, the featured entrepreneur was a woman from Paraguay named Celsa Cabrera. She was requesting $1,000 for a meat shredder for their grocery store. They were so close to matching her request that I donated $25 and by the time I had made the payment, two other people had also made donations, which put her at her goal. Twenty-four people from four different countries had joined together to raise the money.
The thing I liked about this woman was that not only had she and her husband started this business when the company her husband worked for had to close, putting him out of business, but they have made it a point to employ other people in similar straits, so they are not only improving their lives, but the lives of others around them.
I think we can only be enriched by helping others. I hope some people reading this journal entry will give some thought to checking out Kiva and becoming partners with people across the world who just need a little helping hand to become self-sustaining.
There is a great video in the New York Times web page about Kiva here.